It’s all over. Investigators have ended the search for Air France flight 447’s flight data and voice recorders. Alain Guilldou, a spokesman for the BEA confirmed that the search for the wreckage and black boxes of AF447 was called off last night. The lease on the robot submarines onboard the Seabed Worker search vessel have run out and the robots will be returned to their owners in the United States.
The search will end with over 200 square miles of ocean floor left unexplored.
At this moment, there are no plans for another search.
Here is the article from Business Week:
May 25 (Bloomberg) — Investigators probing the crash of an Air France plane off Brazil last year ended their search for its flight recorders with 200 square miles of ocean floor unexplored after misinterpreted data sent them on a six-day detour.
The hunt for the so-called black boxes was called off last night as leases run out on the robot submarines carried by the search vessel Seabed Worker, Alain Guilldou, a spokesman for France’s BEA air-accident investigation bureau, said yesterday.
The ship’s sweep of a zone identified as the likely site of the Airbus SAS A330 wreck was put on hold after analysis of 10 month-old recordings made after the June 1 crash suggested it should switch to a site 40 miles (74 kilometers) away. When later studies showed the sounds probably weren’t from the jet’s “pingers,” almost a week of search time had already been lost.
“As a consequence we won’t be able to cover the last area,” BEA President Jean-Paul Troadec said last week in an interview at the bureau’s headquarters outside Paris. The Seabed Worker will return to port this week so that its two submarines can be returned to their owner in the U.S., he said.
Air France Flight 447 crashed en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing all 228 people on board. While early findings suggested that the plane’s speed sensors gave false readings when it encountered poor weather, the BEA had said it needed the black boxes in order to establish the crash’s definitive cause.
While Guilldou said a further search hasn’t been ruled out, the probe may now have to rely on other evidence. About 1,000 items of debris and 50 bodies have been recovered.
This week’s pullback marks the end of a third unsuccessful attempt to locate the cockpit voice and flight data recorders.
With only the wide-body plane’s last-known coordinates to go on, together with a series of automated maintenance messages suggesting an impact about five minutes later, the BEA drew up an initial search area of almost 6,700 square miles.
During the month in which the flight-recorder pingers were expected to transmit, the zone was scanned by U.S. Navy sonars towed behind two tugs and by a French nuclear submarine.
The submarine, the Emeraude, was ill-equipped for detecting high-pitched noise from the black boxes, having been designed to track lower-frequency sounds from enemy vessels, French Navy spokesman Hugues Du Plessis d’Argentre said in an interview.
Only when the recordings were enhanced with the help of Thales SA, the defense-electronics company already involved in the probe as the supplier of the speed sensors, were traces of suspected pinger signals found in data gathered on July 1.
France’s defense ministry went public with the findings on May 6. Days later the Seabed Worker was diverted away from a search zone identified by oceanographers who had used computer models to plot the plane’s likely point of impact based on the position of floating debris and data on sea currents.
The vessel subsequently found no trace of the black boxes in the new zone, and Troadec said he’s not convinced that the Emeraude’s recordings ever came from the pingers.
“They can be confused with a certain number of other systems,” the investigator said in the interview on May 18.
A search using towed sonars alone would have in any case been impossible, with the only two units in the world able to work at the necessary depths already enlisted, Troadec said. Given that the devices can cover no more than 30 square miles a day and that the pingers’ battery life was three or four weeks, 10 would have been needed to scour the area, he said.
“The Emeraude was an additional resource,” Troadec said. “If it hadn’t been there, we probably wouldn’t have been able to cover the zone anyway.”